White-shoe bankers, beware: Washington Mutual has taken to the streets of the Big Apple and the Windy City this week with teams of guerilla marketers who are spreading the word on the company’s new roster of free financial services.
Supported by a national media campaign, the bank yesterday launched a series of interventions to tout WaMu’s new free checking services. Street teams offered customers $2 bills as they walked away from the automated teller machines of competitive banks, to drive home the hidden costs of old-style banking. Throughout the week, actress/comedienne Aisha Tyler (former Friends actress and Talk Soup host) will conduct street-side interviews in New York City with “stodgy bankers” about the features of the Washington Mutual account.
“New York is a flagship market for us, and the competition here is pretty old-fashioned,” said Christopher Matthews, senior VP of brand and advertising for Seattle-based Washington Mutual. “We thought they were a bit like the characters in our campaign.”
TV and print ads poke fun at old-fashioned bankers who just can’t believe WaMu’s checking bundle. The bundle includes free ATM cash withdrawals, a free overdraft fee waiver each year, free checks for life, cash back for debit-card use, free outbound wires and low balance alerts— no minimum balance requirement.
“Exactly how does that help the rich get richer?” gasps Mr. Stodgy Banker, one of the campaign’s characters, while smoking his cigar and grasping his champagne glass. The advertising campaign was developed by Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. Street events, which deploy the same talent used in the ads, were coordinated by Fathom Communications, New York City.
“This campaign is uniquely well-integrated,” Matthews said, “across not only our media ads, but even into actors and scripting of these guerilla events.”
Washington Mutual declined to disclose the spending behind the new campaign, but confirmed that its annual advertising budget alone averages over $100 million a year.
The new national campaign represents Washington Mutual’s largest product launch ever. In addition to the street events in New York and Chicago, the company is running direct mail, online advertising, subway and billboard signs and newspaper wraps.